Solid Ink Printers Explained

This article explains how Xerox solid ink based printers work.

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Xerox Solid Inkjet Printers, also known as phase-change printers, are unique since they represent a ink technology not used by any other manufacturer. As always, pros and cons exist for all printer technologies with solid ink printer as no exception.

Article chapters:
1. How Solid Ink Printers Work
2. Solid Ink Printers - Pros and Cons

How Solid Ink Printers Work

Solid ink technology was first developed by a company called Tektronix which was later bought up by Xerox in the year 2000.

A solid ink printer is based on a simple technical design consisting of three major components:

  • a maintenance roller applying oil to the print drum
  • a printhead transferring ink to the print drum via 1,236 nozzles jetting more than 30 million ink drops per second.
  • a print drum transferring the image to the paper

The printing process looks as follows:

  1. The maintenance roller applies a layer of silicone oil to the heated drum for reliable ink release
  2. The printhead applies all colors at the same time on the rotating drum.
  3. A sheet of paper is rapidly fed between the rotating drum and a transfix roller, transferring the ink to the paper.
  4. The ink penetrates and solidifies very fast with the paper minimizing the risk for smearing problems. The ink fuses with the paper by heat and pressure.
  5. If the printer is set to print in duplex, the paper is feed back into the duplex paper path. The paper takes one more turn in the printer and gets printed on the other side.

Solid Ink Printers - Pros and Cons

Below listing is based on the comparison with standard inkjet and laser printers. As for buying and operation costs, solid ink printers can be compared to the costs of owning a laser printer.

Solid ink printers are generally Strong in the following areas:

  • Eco friendliness, read more about this in our solid ink sticks article. Tip: Read more about Green Printing!
  • Few parts lowering the maintenance cost and creating a reliable printing process
  • Capable of handling more paper types and thicknesses compared to laser and inkjet printers. Examples of media to use is recycled paper, envelopes and transparencies
  • Excellent print quality with vivid colors
  • Fast printing (when the initial warm up is done)
  • Ease of use, all ink color sticks have different forms making it impossible to insert them in a wrong way

Solid ink printers are generally Weak in the following areas:

  • Lengthy warm up time that in worst case can take 3-5 minutes.
  • As with inkjet printers, printheads can become clogged. To clean them a cleaning program needs to be run which might drain the ink sticks.
  • The printer can’t be moved around without the running of a special cooling program that cools the melted wax. Failure to do so can damage the printer.
  • High power consumption due to the nature of the technology requiring that several parts of the printer must be heated to a temperature that is close to the melting point of the ink. If the printer is set to low power mode a warm up period is needed again to get the printer print ready.
  • Printouts are harder to interact with if you have the need to make notes on them with a pencil. This due to the wax that repel pencil ink.
     

Recommended further reading:


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